Who Won and Lost in the 2014 Budget

Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Barbara Mikulski/ Talk Radio News Service

Lawmakers have introduced a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that will finally complete the budgeting process for the federal government's fiscal year 2014, which began back on Oct. 1. The bill abides by the overall spending levels crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray in December and appropriates specific funding levels for all discretionary programs. (For more about the federal budget process, see Federal Budget 101.) So who wins and loses as lawmakers race to the finish line to get a spending bill for our nation passed into law?

Who Won

Pentagon:  As specified in the budget resolution hammered out by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray last month, the Pentagon will avoid a projected $20 billion cut in fiscal 2014. In addition, the omnibus spending bill includes $85 billion for war operations in Afghanistan. That's $5 billion more than the Pentagon requested to fund the war – and that cash is being used to add extra cushion to other parts of the military budget, since war funding is exempt from spending caps and the across-the-board cuts of sequestration. The National Guard and Reserve, for instance, will receive $1 billion from the war budget “for procurement of aircraft, missiles, tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, other weapons and other procurement," according to the legislation.

Early-Childhood Education:  Head Start will see an additional $1 billion in funding this year compared to last year, for a total program budget of $8.6 billion. That will restore its budget from the cuts of sequestration and allow the program to add a cost of living increase for its service providers.

Who Lost

Early-Childhood Education:  Though the Head Start program received a boost relative to last year's sequestration cuts, the 2014 budget allocates no funding for President Obama's vision of universal pre-kindergarten education in this country.

National Institutes of Health:  While this spending package raises NIH funding relative to the steep cuts last year under sequestration, the agency will still be hundreds of millions of dollars short of pre-sequester funding levels. That means continued cuts in research and grants.

Tax Collection:   The IRS will see its funding cut as a result of this bill, thereby lessening its ability to enforce tax collection. Experts estimate that every dollar spent on the IRS brings in $4 to $5 in additional revenue through better tax enforcement, as our friends at Center for Effective Government have noted.

Transparency:  The omnibus spending bill clocked in at 1,582 pages. That's because it combines 12 separate appropriations bills that should have been deliberated and passed individually to allow all legislators and their constituents the opportunity to review what's in the legislation and to make their own priorities known.

Sources: House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations CommitteeThe Washington Post, National Public Radio